The Azzurri took the field with a yellow-blue heart on the numbers for Ukraine
CARDIFF. In Cardiff we expected yet another collapse, instead Italy is reborn, beating Wales 22-21 with a magnificent match sealed by an extraordinary half ‘invented’ by Ange Capuozzo and closed by Padovani when the time is up. The black series of 36 defeats is closed, for the first time in history we beat Wales in Cardiff (in 2006 we drew 18-18) but above all we play a match that borders on perfection. Almost flawless, and in any case very gritty in defense, warrior in the meeting points, in scrum, in touch, without trivial errors and with a solid conviction in her own means. Italy finally plays as it should, defending and occupying the space, kicking at the right moment. And in a Wales that is perhaps not splendid, a presumptuous but always combative thread, all that remains is to clap our hands. From here we have to start over, to build a different story in the Six Nations, from the great performance of Capuozzo and Fischetti, of Garbisi, of Padovani, of all the Azzurri forwards, of a whole team that for the first time in years opens a glimmer of optimism .
The first half is one of Italy’s best ever in the Six Nations. Concrete, solid, focused, very effective on the meeting points, Crowley’s boys concede very little to Wales, surprised by the blue vein. The hosts concede two penalties between 13 ‘and 14’, and Garbisi and Padovani then, from long distance, punish them with two perfect kicks. The reaction comes, with an attacking offensive by the Dragons who are close to the scoring already at 17 ‘, after a series of three free kicks and three touches in the 22 of Italy, but the blues hold, with an impeccable defense.
The only distraction comes in the 28th minute, after a long Welsh action that goes up the whole field and with a fast pace puts the Azzurri’s strength to the test, until Watkin finds the right space. However, Wales’ lead (7-6 after Biggar’s conversion) didn’t last long. Italy has accustomed us to sudden collapses, this time instead not only continues to keep in the scrum and in the breakdowns, but forces Wales to grant two more free kicks, and again it is Garbisi and Padovani who hit the posts between 31 ‘and the 34 ‘. And Italy is even more convincing in the final half. Ioane at 39 ‘finds a break that seems to be a winning one, is stopped but the Azzurri are back at their best in touch and come within a whisker of the goal with a kick to the wing of Garbisi who after an aerial tackle rolls into the air in goal. First Capuozzo then Braley seem to be able to crush, and our half actually succeeds, but after having summoned the TMO the referee cancels for a foul by Ioane. In any case, a great Italy that closes the first fraction at 7-12.
But the second half is Italy’s masterpiece. After having risked the goal at the corner with yet another break by Ioane (’46), Italy went under in the 52nd minute thanks to a winning maul and the Welsh hooker Lake who crushes in the goal. He comes back 5 minutes later, with the third placed by Garbisi and fails the extension with Padovani who misses a difficult place in the 53rd minute. So when Josh Adams’ goal arrives, who slips between the blue rows and takes advantage of the second distraction in the whole game, the match seems decided (21-15). Wales could close it in the 73rd minute, Wyn Jones breaks through after a heroic blue defense on the goal line, but the TMO decides that the ball has not been crushed and cancels. Italy, however, believes in it, is determined, contrary to the Welsh who seem to have run out of petrol and in fact gets a touchdown in the 78th minute in the 22 Welsh. If he has it stolen, and again it seems over, but on the liberation of the Welsh Capuozzo literally invents rugby, sows all the Welsh defense and serves Padovani a golden ball that the blue winger crushes in the middle of the goalposts. Garbisi’s transformation fixes the score on the historic 21-22, and then the emotional tears of our number 10 and of the whole team arrive.
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